Numerous directors, not to mention actors and other movie makers, say that they are against watching their own films. Such is not the case with Darren Aronofsky who, shortly after arriving at the Film Society of Lincoln Center last night, decided to pop into the Walter Reade Theater to catch the end of a packed showing of “The Wrestler.”
“I haven’t seen it in a few years,” he told a group of us as we waited for the film to conclude so that his Q & A could begin. The New York filmmaker was at Lincoln Center on Wednesday for the second night of the retrospective, “Darren Aronofsky: Dreams & Nightmares.”
Chatting with FSLC colleague Scott Foundas on stage after the screening, Aronofsky reflected on being a director and better understanding actors.
photo by godlis (courtesy film society of lincoln center)
“Filmmaking is barely an art. 99% of my job is bureaucracy,” he told Foundas, when asked if there was a metaphor for moviemaking to be found in the “Black Swan’s” story of a young woman trying to be perfect.
“Perfection I think is very specific to ballet,” Aronofsky added.
Chatting about his work, Aronofsky speaks more of stirring an audience than anything else.
“I’m just trying to entertain,” he said, when Foundas asked him about the squirming and laughter seen in the audience during “Black Swan.” So, is the film meant to provoke laughter? Is it camp? “However people want to enjoy it is fine by me,” Aronofsky added.
“You have to be memorable if you want people to be thinking about it thirty seconds after it happens,” he continued, “I don’t think it matters, the reaction, as long as they’re reacting.”
Working with on screen talent has become the most pleasurable part of being a director, Aronofsky said, noting this his two films about performance, “Black Swan” and “The Wrestler,” grew out of a focus on actors. He took an acting class to try to better understand performing. And then bailed out when he’d had enough.
“I took Meisner until I cried and then I was out of there,” the director said, explaining, “It became about performance because that became the most exciting part of my job, working with actors. That’s where I was weakest.”
Darren Aronofsky became particularly excited about exploring “Swan Lake” when he realized that, at its core, it is a werewolf story. And now, he’s poised to take on the story of a mutant character, namely “Wolverine.”
“I think it’s important to keep trying new things,” he said of the graphic novel adaptation as last night’s came to a close.
And then, Foundas sought just one more question from the Lincoln Center audience.
Why was “Black Swan” so unnecessarily grotesque, a woman near the front asked, causing ripples of laughter from the crowd when the moderator repeated the question so that all could hear it.
“Its a very hard line, as a filmmaker, to know when is too much,” Aronofsky began, “And I’m usually on the wrong side of it.”
“I am sorry if I upset and offended you,” he said to the woman. Then he smiled, “But, beware of my films!”
After the talk, Aronofsky signed autographs and posed for photos with the crowd, until he was ushered out to make way for the next screening.
He headed down the stairs to 65th Street, but once the crowd had dispersed Aronofsky returned a few minutes later.
He wanted to sneak into the back of the Walter Reade Theater to watch a bit of his first feature, “Pi.”
DISCLOSURE: I am the head of digital strategy at the Film Society of Lincoln Center.